The Southern Humboldt Unified School District’s board of trustees held a special meeting in Miranda last week to review plans from Redding based Semingson Architects for energy-efficient upgrades at several schools, build a new gym facility and locker rooms at South Fork High School, and add additional space to an existing building at Redway Elementary for a combined library and computer lab.
They also approved a change order for more than $20,000 to make renovations to a sidewalk at Redway School that doesn’t currently meet the requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act. Another change order was approved for $3,000 to explore the possibility of installing a transfer switch at South Fork High School so the campus can be run on a generator during power outages.
A minor controversy developed among the trustees over a shower that will be built as part of plans for a new $6.5 million gym facility. Tensions rose over whether or not the boys’ shower would need privacy walls.
Since privacy walls of any kind can cost upwards of $10,000, a healthy debate ensued over whether or not the expense was warranted. Partitions, sort of like bathroom stalls, were considered - but that idea was scrapped over concerns that the material would break down quickly and need to be replaced. Ultimately, the board opted to go with framed, tile walls between shower stalls. The decision was based on the belief that tile walls will last longer and be easy to clean.
In debate, trustee Blake Lehman was adamant about his belief that privacy walls were unnecessary since previous generations of public school students used pit-showers in gym class. Other members of the board pointed out that showers in the female locker room would include privacy walls and it might be prudent to provide the same facilities for students of either gender. Kevin Tedder, of Semingson Architects, pointed out that if the district built showers without privacy walls then students may simply opt not to use them.
SHUSD superintendent Catherine Scott also pointed out one interesting facet of the issue - school showers could turn out to be a prime location for bullying. Due to limited staffing, there isn’t always appropriate supervision in a locker room.
"Due to the nature of a locker room," Scott said, "the coach can be 10 feet away and still out of sight."
She stated that so far as she knows, the Southern Humboldt Unified School District is not currently experiencing a problem with bullying in school locker rooms or showers.
Plans to modernize several campuses in Southern Humboldt revolve around energy-efficient upgrades like new windows, lower ceilings with added insulation, and modern HVAC systems to replace older boilers used to heat classrooms. Modernization may also include new sinks and other plumbing fixtures in school bathrooms. In total, the modernization plans presented and approved at last week’s special meeting will address efficiency issues at Redway Elementary, Whitethorn Elementary, and Agnes J. Johnson Elementary at an estimated cost of more than $10 million.
The district also plans to add a new room onto an existing building at Redway School to house a combined library and computer lab. They first considered adding a new structure - but trustees say they expect this change to save the district roughly $2 million. Still, plans for the library and computer lab at Redway Elementary are too new to have a solid estimate on what the project will really cost. All projects are still in the planning phase, however, Semingson Architects has been given the green light to move forward.
Cost of plans for each school project:
Library and computer lab at Redway Elementary - not yet known
New gym, showers, lockers at SFHS - $6,500,000
Redway modernization - $2,095,000
Whitethorn modernization - $600,000
Agnes Johnson Elementary modernization - $980,000